Naruto and Artemis were walking along the shore of Camp Halfblood looking out onto the ocean. The sun was shining brightly on the duo; a bit too brightly for Naruto where he was feeling extra warm from the sun's rays. Artemis caught on to Naruto's discomfort and sent a glare towards the sun. She then sent her brother a private mental message to back off. Up in the sun chariot, Apollo was torn between listening to his big sister and wanting to keep Naruto in his sights with the arrow in his bow. Eventually, the god's little used common sense kicked in and he listened to his sister's warning.
Once Apollo's gaze was elsewhere, Artemis spoke to Naruto with a nervous look on her face. "Naruto, can we sit and talk for a bit about our relationship?"
The young halfblood nodded his head and sat down in front of Artemis on the sand while she sat on the edge of the grass. Naruto looked up at the goddess and asked, "Have I done something wrong again? I could have sworn I haven't done something major for the two of us again like my adoption idea. Mom was pretty through in her lecture to me on her last visit about making what she called a married singles decision even though we're just at the conditional engagement stage." Hera had really laid into Naruto about his great error of making a decision as an individual that as a couple he and Artemis should have discussed in through detail before acting. As the goddess of marriage, Hera knew that such actions only caused problems for couples.
Artemis wrapped her arms around her legs and half hid her face from Naruto behind her raised knees. Her cheeks were tinted golden from the ichor flowing to her cheeks. Artemis swallowed some of her nervousness and then began to speak. "No Naruto, you haven't done something wrong. I want to talk to you about us. I, well, the thing is that," Artemis struggled to voice the words she wanted or rather needed to say.
Naruto wasn't sure what he should do. It was obvious to him that something was important and bugging Artemis. However, Naruto didn't have the first clue what Artemis could be thinking about. He soon decided to fall back to the default answer of any guy which was waiting patiently for his significant other to tell him what the problem was.
That appeared to be the correct answer for Naruto to choose as Artemis closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and started to speak again. "Naruto, I want you to stop trying to find a way to end the wager that led to our engagement." She then produced the Uzumaki Clan seal and a key made of deer antlers. "I'm returning your clan seal because I don't need a pledge to trust your word Naruto. I also am offering you this key as a gift and sign of our future alliance that will be solidified by our marriage bond. This key was especially created for you. With this key, all temples and other locations sacred to me will automatically unlock to you. I've also had a feature added to the key that will allow you to teleport into any of my temples with your Hiraishin jutsu."
Artemis's cheeks were completely golden from embarrassment as she handed the key and the seal to Naruto. Coming up with a gift to showcase their alliance by the duo's future marriage had not been easy for Artemis. It was necessary given that most of the marriage customs of Olympus dated back to ancient Greece and the exchange of gifts to show the alliance that occurred with a marriage was one of those customs that the Olympians had kept. There hadn't been a wedding among the Olympians since the 4th century AD, but it was a custom and it would cause problems for Artemis and Naruto if the duo didn't follow the customs. Artemis was already twisting things enough since she was making the gift as her own guardian. Tradition for this custom dictated that a girl's father or brother made the gift since they were supposedly responsible for her.
Her choice of gift was odd and very nerve wracking for Artemis. The gift was supposed to be something valuable to show the importance of the alliance that the marriage created. Back in ancient Greece, mortals typically exchanged livestock with a preference for cattle in their pre-marriage gift exchange. Livestock was extremely important in the ancient agrarian society and that's what made the gift a sign of the alliance. Deities didn't deal in livestock, but the principle of exchanging something extremely important remained. The problem for Artemis was that many of the things that were valuable to a god or goddess had far less utility for a halfblood. Naruto was also very well off in terms of his mystical item collection which mostly consisted of weapons and armor as well as in terms of pure monetary wealth. This made picking a gift for this occasion troubling for Artemis.
This trouble in picking a gift led Artemis to offer the most valuable thing she could offer besides her body, which was her trust. Naruto would have free reign over every property she had with that key and he could use it to show up at any time he desired. No one had ever received such freedom from the Goddess of the Hunt. Even Zoe had to knock and received permission to enter some rooms in Artemis's main temple on Olympus. As long as Naruto held that key the barriers that would keep out Zoe would let him pass.
Naruto wasn't sure what he should say or do in this situation. He quietly accepted his clan seal back and then bowed his head slightly when he was handed the key. Confusion was plan on his face as he looked at Artemis and said, "I agree, but why? I thought you wanted me to get you out of your bet?"
At this point, the best thing Artemis could have done was told the complete truth behind why she wanted Naruto to stop trying to end their engagement. She could admit the truth in the deep recesses of her mind where no one could even dream of reading her thoughts. But, Artemis could not bring herself to say what she truly felt and instead went with a fallback truth. It was completely true. However, it wasn't the whole truth or even her primary motivation.
Artemis diverted her eyes slightly from Naruto and said, "Hera reminded me of something that I've long wanted to forget exists. As a goddess of a domain, I eventually have to experience everything involved with my domains. It can be many millennia before we experience aspects of our domains, but eventually we do have to experience all aspects. Since I'm the goddess of maidens and virginity I must experience the loss of those states. Furthermore, I'm also the goddess of childbirth so I must eventually give birth to children of my own."
The goddess refocused her gaze on Naruto and continued on softly. "Theoretically I could accomplish those feats with a one night stand like many of my fellow gods and goddesses do. However, that's not the proper, responsible, or even really right way to do things. I'm sure you've noticed some of the problems that the modern western civilization is having due to the break down in the family?"
Naruto gave Artemis a brief nod of agreement. The society of the Elemental Nations was focused on clan ties and family bonds. Naruto got the fuzzy end of the lollipop as a child being both an orphan and someone that the most of the people around him didn't want to be around. He wasn't the best at social functions and was known for occasionally embarrassing himself and his friends because he didn't pick up on certain social ques. However, he still had certain expectations about various social bonds from his birth culture that were reinforced by his demigod nature. Those expectations simply were not in popular mainstream culture in the USA. Things weren't so bad up in Alaska since his "hometown" was in a rural area with a fairly conservative outlook when it came to those social aspects. When it came to the cities like New York City or Las Vegas it was a whole different story and Naruto was frankly disgusted by what he saw at times.
Artemis accepted Naruto's nod of agreement. She, Hera, and Hestia were all enraged over the breakdown in the traditional ideal of the family that had happened relatively recently in Western civilization. The problems it caused for their domains were quite massive and a regular source of headaches for the trio. Artemis continued on in her speech. "Part of being the protector of maidens entails trying to be a good example for them to follow. That means doing things in the correct manner. In this case the correct manner is getting married, losing my virginity to my husband, and having my future children in wedlock. You are someone who has proven to be fairly respectful where it matters and a decent person who I'm friends with. Even if I exclude my bet as a reason, you are one of the better choices I could make for a husband."
The goddess looked down at her knees again for a moment to let Naruto digest what she had told him. She then looked back at Naruto who had a slightly stunned look on his face. Artemis then asked Naruto, "Can you understand and accept why I'm doing this? I will not be the traditional wife that stays at home tending children for a living. That is not the kind of person I am. Also, my duties and divine laws prevent such a thing from happening even if I was that kind of person. I'm not even sure just how much time we'll be able to stay together after we get married before I'll have to leave for a period of time only to return and start the cycle again. Thetis is the only goddess to ever marry someone without eternal life and she is under a special punishment from my father. How our marriage would work in terms of the typical rules regarding divine and mortal interactions is up in the air. Perhaps Hera will be generous and rule that I'll only need to separate from you for a few hours much like a mortal going to work in order to fulfill my duties and the laws. It could also be ruled that I will have to spend weeks or even months apart from you much like a mortal military person on deployment. I just don't have the ability to say at this point."
The goddess of the hunt was able to speak more confidently to Naruto now that the conversation had moved away from her feelings. "I can promise you a few things about our marriage Naruto. First, I can promise you that I will take our wedding vows seriously. There will be some changes to the traditional vows, but I can say right now that I will be a faithful and loyal wife when we marry." Artemis paused for a minute for continuing on with a light golden blush on her cheeks. "I'm letting you know right now that I will not permit myself to have any daughters for reasons that I do not want to go into with you right now Naruto. But, I promise to bare as many sons for you as you wish once we're married. We can even have as many sons as I have hunters Naruto, but please understand that if you want that many children it will take some time for me as I will not allow myself to have more than twins at a time."
Naruto's eyes widened and he replied, "Artemis, you have 42 hunters just right now!"
Artemis looked a little nervous as she answered back. "I did say that it would take some time Naruto. Even if I bore you the equivalent to my full allowance of 50 hunters it would just be a large outlier in the number of children that one wife has had for her husband. I know that the highest mortal record for one woman to have was 69 children. I refuse to have so many children as fast as that woman did, but I do have a few advantages over mortal women in that regards to that aspect."
A small chuckle escaped Naruto's lips when he heard Artemis say that. "You do have a few advantages there Artemis." Artemis joined Naurto in chuckling a moment later. Once they stopped chuckling Naruto said, "Thank you for explaining why you wanted me to stop trying to end your bet Artemis. If you want to make our upcoming marriage work than I will try as well."
Artemis stood up and smiled at Naruto. She then leaned down and gave him a small kiss on the cheek. Artemis then walked off leaving Naruto touching his cheek with his hand and blushing a bit.
The following day after Artemis and Naruto's outing there was a big commotion in Camp. A UPS truck pulled up to the loading bay at camp where the strawberry delivery trucks usually came. This was a big deal because no one was expecting any delivery today. Chiron quickly got suited up in his wheelchair disguise and had Naruto wheel him out to the UPS truck.
Centaur and shinobi saw the UPS delivery man standing by his truck with an impatient look on his face. The delivery man was a bit surprise to see a man in a wheelchair being pushed towards him. Chiron gave the man a polite smile and said, "Good morning sir. My name is Pierce Brunner and I am the Activities Director here at Camp. Sorry for the delay in coming to greet you, but we weren't expecting to have a delivery today."
There was a slightly embarrassed look on the delivery man's face as he spoke. "No apologies are necessary sir. I've just got several packages to deliver here and was instructed to wait for someone to sign for the packages."
Chiron asked, "Do you know who sent the packages or what's in them? As I said earlier, we weren't expecting any packages today." Chiron was being cautious as things had been changing very rapidly around Camp these last couple of years. With these constant changes he wasn't as sure of things going as they usually did and that put him on guard. There was no guarantee that this wasn't some monster attempt to sneak inside Camp. This was especially true since Hermes was upset over the execution of Luke since the boy was his favorite son even though he was a traitor.
"Let me check sir," the delivery man looked down at his clipboard and said, "Okay here it is. The packages were sent from a game company's distribution center. I remember that address since I've had some deliveries from there. As for what's in it, I can't say. The manifest just lists twelve packages and each package is supposed to be delivered to a separate cabin with the cabin number written on each package."
Chiron nodded his head and said, "Thank you for telling me sir. Naruto here is the councilor of Cabin 2 and he can help you get the packages out of the truck. I'll check over the packages here before sending them to the Cabins they are supposed to be delivered to here. After all, we don't want someone sending something to the kids here that they shouldn't have." Chiron then signed off on the delivery and Naruto helped the deliveryman get the packages off of the truck.
Once the deliveryman had left, Naruto opened the package for Cabin 2 with his hand on a kunai ready for possible trouble. The package, like all of the others, was two feet high, two feet wide, and four feet long. He lifted the top of the box to reveal over a dozen smaller boxes, several books, and a letter inside the outer packaging. Naruto turned to look at Chiron who was just as puzzled as he was at this unexpected turn of events.
Naruto holstered his kunai and picked up the letter in the package for Cabin 2. He then began to read it out loud. "Naruto, I wanted to show my appreciation for your extra lessons to help the Alumni of Camp Halfblood. That Kawarimi jutsu has been a gods' send for dealing with irate fanboys at mortal conventions. As a sign of my appreciation, I decided to increase the army size in the package for your army compared to the other Cabins' armies in my donation. I think you'll have fun with this army. It seems appropriate to me for you to have it even if it's not my preferred codex for Space Marines. I've also had all of the codices in my packages translated into ancient Greek. Enjoy and have fun."
The shinobi looked into the box and picked up one of the books. He looked at the title and saw Codex: Space Wolves. Naruto then looked into the package and examined the boxes inside to see that they were boxes of models for the codex in his hand. Naruto turned to Chiron and said with a smile, "They're game pieces. One of the Alumni's sent us a bunch of game pieces."
Chiron got out of his wheelchair and walked over to look at the package Naruto had opened. While Naruto started to look at the army packages, Chiron picked up Naruto's letter that was off to the side. Something in what Naruto had read aloud reminded the centaur of one of the currently living alumnae. He quickly glanced at the handwriting and confirmed his suspicions about his former pupil's identity. Chiron also felt a headache start to form wondering what sort of discord that son of Eris was going to cause in the camp with his gift.
It turns out that Chiron's instincts was correct about that Alumni's gift causing all sorts of headaches in Camp. On the one hand, many campers found 40k to be a fun game for them to play. The fact that the rule books were all in ancient Greek was a major plus for many campers compared to other games they could get at the stores. It was also seen as something special that an adult Halfblood had been generous enough to give gifts to the Camp equal to several thousand dollars. It wasn't much of a surprise to see a table or two being used by some Campers with free time to play wargames with the new Cabin armies.
On the other hand, there were massive rows over the armies that had been sent to different cabins. Some halfbloods, like Hephaestus's kids with their new Necron army, were happy with their army and found it to somewhat appropriate for their cabin. A few like Percy and his new Ultramarine army with the special figurines drew some annoyance from members of other cabins. However, several halfbloods and Mr. D were not happy at the armies sent to their Cabins. Mr. D didn't like the premise of Nurgle's game lore even though his sons like the added toughness to their army. Most of Aphrodite's children saw getting stuck with an army themed around Slaanesh to be a direct insult at them. A small few like Silena were able to take the back handed complement with good humor.
This didn't really matter to Naruto and Percy at the moment as they had a practice spar in the arena. Percy's skills had skyrocketed ever since his past lives had been brought to the surface. While their memories had been suppressed, the skills Percy had acquired in his past lives and particularly those of Tobirama had remained. An example of Percy's new skills was the fact that he could now speak a slightly archaic variant of Azerbaijani and Farsi which he got from Ismail along with a knack for poetry when he put his mind to it.
However, Tobirama's memories and skills dominated what Percy had acquired from his past lives. The Nidaime's abilities with ninjutsu, genjutsu, kenjutsu, and taijutsu were integrating with Percy's at a rate that made Chiron and several of the other councilors' concerned. At night, Percy's dreams were typically memories from Tobirama's life that stayed when he woke up instead of the typical demigod dreams. Naruto even sent a letter to Hades for advice on Percy's situation to try and put people at ease over the effects of Percy's pervious lives. Hades had replied to Naruto's letter to almost everyone's surprise stating that it was to be expected given how Percy's past life as Tobirama had been summoned previously several times. The Lord of the Dead also warned Percy in that letter that if he ever used the Edo Tensei jutsu that he would send every monster in the Underworld after Percy in order to throw the boy into Tartarus.
Percy condensed the moisture in the air into a wall of water shoulder high and three feet thick about two feet in front of him and ducked behind the wall. Two rasengan cannon shots hit the wall and another sailed just over the top where he had just been standing. The rasengan attacks that hit the wall drilled into wall about three fourths the way before they dissipated. Within seconds, Percy reformed the wall removing any sign of Naruto's attack. A glance through the watery barrier revealed three Narutos looking rather smugly at him.
The younger halfblood felt a vibration in the ground and realized what his cousin was planning. Percy jumped up seconds before Naruto emerged from the ground with his kanabo in hand. As Percy jumped he twisted to avoid the shuriken thrown by the clones on the other side of his water wall. He then swerved in midair to avoid a swing from Naruto's kanabo. However, Percy's swerve left him wide open to the second Naruto that emerged from the hole using the first Naruto to hide his movements. This second Naruto's kanabo solidly hit Percy sending the boy plummeting to the ground.
The second Naruto proceeded to grab the first Naruto and throw him towards Percy before vanishing in a puff of smoke. Naruto quickly caught the falling Percy and used his cousin to break his fall to the ground. Percy found himself with Naruto's knee on his neck after he was done seeing stars and tapped out of the match. Naruto got off of Percy and helped his opponent to his feet.
Percy started to rub his neck and muttered, "Did you really have to hit so hard Naruto? I wouldn't be too surprised if my organs start to bruise with that last combo."
Naruto gave his cousin a pat on the shoulder and said, "Just take a quick swim in the lake and you'll be fine. You know you'll be better in a half hour or less so there's no point to complain. Besides, you did better in this spar than you did in our last one. Your integration of your inherited shinobi skills has improved your fighting abilities tremendously."
"And yet, you still hand me my ass on a silver platter."
"That's because I have more actual experience with various ninshu derived skills. I'm also older, physically stronger, and I have larger chakra reserves than you. Our sparing matches are heavily weighted for me to win, but that's not the point. The main point of this is to improve your skills and you have Percy."
The cousins then headed towards the lake with Naruto helping Percy to walk. He then helped the preteen into the water so he could heal. Percy was back in top shape and out of the water 20 minutes later. It would have been 18 minutes, but there was a small delay due to a flirty Naiad that wanted to play with Percy. Naruto and Percy then separated to head to their next camp activity. Percy had metalworking while Naruto had Archery practice.
Finally, the Summer Session of Camp came to an end and the yearly bead was handed out. There was a furious debate over what the symbol for the bead should be. Some argued that bead should reflect Percy's quest for Hera's diadem. Others argued that the bead should reflect the fact that the first ever quest from the Fates occurred. Then there was arguments over just how the representation would reflect one quest or the other. Finally, Naruto was able to get a compromise with the bead showing the image of a manatee. It wasn't the best compromise, but everyone could agree that having the image of a creature known as the sea cow showed respect for both Percy's and Naruto's backgrounds.
Unknown to the Campers, Hera, Amphitrite, and to a lesser extent Poseidon weren't too thrilled at the choice of the manatee. The manatee wasn't a creature typically associated with any of the deities. At the same time, they weren't offended by the choice because they didn't have a shared symbol. Naruto's argument that a sea cow would reflect the sea as an aquatic creature and reflect his mother because her sacred animal was a cow wasn't going to win him any divine favors. It also wasn't going to earn him any divine ire either.
Naruto was currently in the stables taking care of Bucephalus. His stuff was mostly sealed away with a few other items in a backpack that was set off to the side. Naruto's main task for the day was trimming some of Bucephalus's hoofs and replacing one of his horseshoes that had gotten too warn. The shinobi demigod said a quick prayer of thanks to his cousin Triton for teaching him everything needed to be a farrier. There was no way that Bucephalus could be taken to a mortal farrier for hoof care. Camp Halfblood wasn't set up to care for Bucephalus since he had different needs from the Pegasi when it came to hoof care. The Pegasi spent most of their time in the air so they only needed to have their hooves trimmed periodically. Bucephalus could fly, but he spent most of his time running on the ground so he needed horseshoes.
Once the hoof was ready, Naruto grabbed a custom made celestial bronze horseshoe and started to nail it onto Bucephalus's hoof. Bucephalus was extremely cooperative with this knowing that the horseshoe was for his own good. Not that it would really matter since Naruto was trained to handle an uncooperative horse as well. Triton didn't consider Naruto's training done until he passed the American Farrier's Association qualification test in order to take care of Bucephalus. Still, it was nice for Naruto that his steed was cooperating.
Someone entered the stall just as Naruto was finishing with putting in the final nail for the horseshoe. Naruto looked up and saw that Percy had entered the stable wearing a backpack on his back. "So," Naruto said as he returned to working on Bucephalus's hoof. "I take it that you decided to not stay here for the school year?"
Percy nodded his head and said, "Don't get me wrong. The school they run here is great. In fact, it's probably one of the best schools I've ever been in. I just miss my mom and I want to see our new home."
"Don't worry Percy," Naruto said as he the final steps for shoeing Bucephalus. "I can understand wanting be with your mother as much as you can. Besides, you'll have me in town to help bail you out of trouble." That earned Naruto an amused snort from his cousin. Naruto seemed to get into just as much trouble as Percy did. The only difference was that Naruto was better at getting out of trouble.
Naruto finished with the horseshoe and let Bucephalus try it out by walking a little bit. He then asked Percy while he was putting away his farrier tools. "Have you said you goodbyes?"
Percy nodded his head and replied, "Yes. It was easier than I expected. I guess knowing that you'll see everyone again makes it a little easier. I'm still going to miss everyone here at Camp."
A bittersweet smile appeared on Naruto face. "Saying goodbye is never easy Percy. Trust me, I've had more experience with saying goodbye for long periods of time than I ever want to have. But you have to look at the bright side. Our friends here at Camp will be safe either inside Camp or at their homes where their skills will insure their safety. Their also only an Iris Message away which is more than I can say for my friends in the Elemental Nations."
Percy nodded his head accepted Naruto's advice. Bucephalus then returned from his test trot and the boys proceeded to saddle up the eight legged steed. The backpacks were strapped onto the sides of the saddle. Naruto did one last check to make sure everything was ready for the trip. He then got on Bucephalus with Percy sitting behind him. The boys then left Camp Halfblood and headed for Alaska.
End of Hero of Heaven Book I
Author's notes: In Ancient Greek society it was common for a bride's family to give the groom's family gifts to help seal the alliance that the marriage brought. Part of the reason for this was to show that the marriage was a true alliance and that the bride's family wasn't trying to get rid of her or sell her. Cattle were the preferred gift for this purpose. Yes, the highest confirmed number of children born to a single woman is 69. It was to a Russian couple in the early 1700s and remarkably 67 of the 69 kids survived to adulthood. Also for you 40k fans, you know exactly who I'm calling Eris's son and I think you'll agree that he fits given the discord he's caused in the fan base.
It's been three years since I started to work on Hero of Heaven and I feel that this would be a good stopping point for the first part of this story. The story is not over. I just feel that this is a good breaking point to let people stop and catch their breath. I also want to let my imagination work on a few other stories that have been put on the back burner. Currently, I am planning on starting to work on the next part of this story in a few months. I'll let you all know with a quick alert chapter when the next story in this series is published.